The Vegas Golden Knights finish up a roller-coaster four-game homestand on Saturday night when they host the Winnipeg Jets in Las Vegas.
The first three games have been a microcosm of the up-and-down start of the season for the Golden Knights, who have looked like legitimate Stanley Cup contenders at times and like a team that will be hard-pressed to make the playoffs on other occasions.
Vegas, which hasn’t won more than two games in a row this season, started the homestand with an ugly 6-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Oct. 25 but rebounded with an impressive 5-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday.
Following a three-day break, the Golden Knights built a 4-2, third-period lead on Thursday night against Montreal and seemed headed toward their ninth victory in 14 games.
But the Canadiens, even though they were playing the second half of a back-to-back that started with a 4-1 win at Arizona, scored a pair of goals in the final 6 1/2 minutes to force overtime. Montreal’s Max Domi then won it just 26 seconds into the extra period.
“It’s the same problem we’ve had all year,” Vegas center Jonathan Marchessault said. “It’s the consistency. We’re not consistent, and that’s why our record is not that good.”
Marchessault added of getting one point for the overtime defeat, “It’s not acceptable for us. They were on a back-to-back, and we laid off in the third period. It’s not enough. Not good enough for us.”
Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said Friday morning that he had moved on from the late-game meltdown.
“I wasn’t happy,” Gallant said. “Nine o’clock this morning you get up and it’s a new day and you get ready to play again. But I was a little disappointed because we played so well in the Anaheim game.
“Usually after a break we play really well. We played OK last night, played good enough to win, but at the end of the day, we didn’t get any puck luck and lost the game. It shouldn’t have happened.”
About an hour after Gallant’s post-practice press conference, the team announced the emergency recall of goaltender Garret Sparks from Chicago of the American Hockey League with no further explanation.
The Golden Knights’ top goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury, didn’t practice Friday because of what Gallant said was a maintenance day. Backup Malcolm Subban, who rejoined the team Monday after sustaining a lower-body injury on Oct. 10 at Arizona, was a full participant in practice. Stay tuned.
Winnipeg, which opened a three-game western road trip with a 7-4 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, bounced back to edge the San Jose Sharks 3-2 on Friday night despite being outshot 53-19. Connor Hellebuyck finished with 51 saves, and Nikolaj Ehlers scored the game-winner with 1:24 remaining.
Hellebuyck had been pulled after allowing five goals on 19 shots at Anaheim.
“He has had a history of having a night he didn’t like and then coming back and being just about unbeatable,” Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said. “It was probably the only story of the game. And those were traffic shots.
“There’s so much hard work that goes into doing what he did tonight, fighting through to see pucks, moving when you’re on the ice, and there’s nothing but legs and sticks flying. He was fantastic.”
The Jets have alternated losses and wins over their past six games. Winnipeg won two of the three meetings with the Golden Knights last season, including splitting the two games played in Las Vegas.
–Field Level Media